During his awe-inspiring career, Brian O’Driscoll sailed close to perfection at times but the Ireland legend doesn’t believe that Joe Schmidt’s imperious class of 2019 will allow themselves to believe that they’re infallible.
After clinching the Grand Slam and earning an historic maiden home victory over world champions New Zealand last year, Ireland head into the 2019 Guinness Six Nations amidst a well-spring of expectation.
With so much already achieved, could the Irish be tempted to take their foot off the gas over the coming weeks? 2009 Grand Slam-winner O’Driscoll says you shouldn’t bet on it, with this Irish side hungry to scale new heights.
“They really drive their own desire and their own appetite and hunger because they’ve ticked a lot of boxes over the last couple of years,” said the former Ireland and British & Irish Lions captain.
“You can see things in lots of different ways but it’s pretty simple to this Ireland team – continue to grow, continue to improve on their performances, and that will make them pretty difficult to beat as that has been at a high standard in the last couple of years.
“The coaching ticket won’t let them rest on their laurels either. They’ll drive the standards and make sure that there’s an improvement game-on-game.
“They’ll be able to find holes in every performance. When you think you’ve got a near-perfect performance, Joe Schmidt and Andy Farrell will find seven or eight things that individuals can improve or the team can improve on collectively.
“You’re never the finished article in rugby. There’s no such thing as the perfect performance, so once you know that and know that you need to continue to improve, you’ve always something to drive yourself towards.”
Anticipation continues to build for Ireland’s Round 1 curtain-raiser against England at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, a potentially titanic showdown with the team Schmidt’s troops deposed as they reigned supreme in last year’s Championship
But O’Driscoll expects Eddie Jones charges to arrive dead-set on flipping the script party in Dublin.
“The England game is always one of your hardest games – if not the hardest game – in the Guinness Six Nations,” said the iconic former Ireland centre.
“You’ll never have it easy. Even against England sides that aren’t fancied, you’ll always get it tough against them.
“They showed some reasonably good form in November. They got three wins – not all good performances but I think they’ll fancy themselves and they’ll feel as though they can come over and cause an upset.
“They’ll certainly rattle a few cages and if you don’t get that from England in Guinness Six Nations rugby, there’s something wrong.
“It’s not often that they would have lost in the manner they did in Twickenham. To lose the Grand Slam over there would have been painful for them.”
O’Driscoll was speaking at the launch of #GuinnessClear, a campaign to encourage all rugby fans to drink responsibly throughout the 2019 Guinness Six Nations.
He believes that ultimately, fine margins will make the difference when Ireland and England go toe-to-toe.
“Rugby’s such a psychological game at times, that if you get three or four inches right, the rest can follow suit,” said O’Driscoll.
“It’s important and you know that Joe Schmidt will get his tactics right.
“Can Eddie Jones match the tactics and can he have his big players pull the strings in a way that will hurt Ireland?
“That’s where you need Owen Farrell, the Vunipolas and Ben Youngs to have big games because Ireland have a great record at the Aviva and they will be very, very difficult to beat.”
Today, GUINNESS launches Guinness Clear – a new responsible drinking campaign ahead of the Guinness Six Nations to encourage moderation amongst the millions of adult fans who will be watching the Championship. For more information, visit http://www.guinness.com/en-gb/guinness-clear-responsible-drinking/